(Written by Amara Lang, FEI Work-Life Specialist)

Many know Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous story The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In sum, Dr. Henry Jekyll is a prominent, handsome and good-natured doctor who recognizes the simultaneous existence of good and evil within him. This recognition leads him to concoct a potion that transforms him into a toxic, malevolent creature who commits terrible acts: Mr. Edward Hyde.

While most of us thankfully won’t be in the extreme situation of working with or managing a Mr. Hyde, many can relate to the unpredictability of working with someone who possesses and exhibits the inappropriate characteristics of our otherwise “hidden” natures. While working with Dr. Jekyll may be a rewarding, positive and productive experience, working with Mr. Hyde (or Mrs. Hyde) can be the opposite and foster a toxic workplace environment.

Besides Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, there are many other types of employees that can be considered toxic. According to Van Moody, a relationship expert and author, a toxic worker is one that:

  • Hinders others and manipulates situations to their personal benefit.
  • Bullies and discourages co-workers for their mistakes, rather than helps or offers guidance.
  • Is solely focused on self at the expense of the organization—even going as far as to take credit for others’ ideas or hard work.
  • Has little to no respect for the professional or personal needs of co-workers.

A 2015 Harvard Business School study on toxic workers found that these kinds of employees cost companies a lot of money due to the high turnover of those they bully and alienate at work. Morality and productivity of staff decreases, good workers leave and training new hires costs money. Employing a toxic worker can cost a company almost three times as much as it gains from its top performer.

The study defines a toxic worker as selfish, overconfident, apathetic towards others and someone who believes the rules should never be broken. Interestingly, toxic workers are usually high performers—or are at least perceived as high performers, which is part of the reason they’re able to get hired in the first place.

Dylan Minor, a co-author of the study, recommends that “managers and human resource staffers should take a more holistic, multidimensional hiring approach, one that values productivity and corporate citizenship … for as the study makes clear, having good people working for you who care about others, and keeping the bad ones out, is not just a nice thing to do, it’s good for business.”

Dr. Jekyll’s alter ego Mr. Hyde would most certainly be considered a toxic worker. Hopefully no one will ever have to deal with this type of individual, but in the event that you do, an account manager at FEI can provide a Management Consultation on possible actions to take with such workers and the challenges they present.